NSSL/CIMMS team wins prestigious award for phased-array radar research paper

NSSL’s Dr. Pamela Heinselman, along with NSSL/Cooperative Institute of Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, David Priegnitz, Kevin Manross, Travis Smith and Richard Adams are the winners of the twenty-second Professor Dr. Vilho Vaisala Award for an Outstanding Research Paper.  The award recognized “Rapid Sampling of Severe Storms by the National Weather Radar Testbed Phased Array Radar,” published in the American Meteorological Society Weather and Forecasting journal, Vol. 23 in 2008.

The paper can be found here:  http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/projects/pardemo/

This same paper was selected as a 2009 Outstanding Scientific Paper Award from NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research.

The winning paper describes a study that demonstrated the National Weather Radar Testbed Phased Array Radar’s capability for adaptable, high temporal resolution scanning of quickly developing features in deep convective storms.

The purpose of the prestigious Professor Dr. Vilho Vaisala Award is to encourage and stimulate interest in research in the field of instruments and methods of observation in support of WMO Programs.  The award was established in 1985, and is granted on a biennial basis.

Heinselman presented the research during the World Meteorological Organization Technical Conference on Meteorological and Environmental Instruments and Methods of Observation in Helsinki, Finland at the beginning of September.  Heinselman, along with Adams and Priegnitz were on hand to receive a diploma and a medal on behalf of the team.

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NSSL shares radar research across the border

Canada's dual-polarized radar near Toronto, Ontario.

Environment Canada scientists visited NSSL on June 7 and 8 to learn more about dual-polarization research in preparation for the dual-polarimetric upgrade to their weather radar network. Canada does not have a research lab with emphasis on remote sensing of weather but has one dual-polarization radar that is used in operations.

Extensive discussions are now being held with NSSL on the technical details of polarimetric radar research including engineering, calibration, data quality, hydrometeor classification and quantitative precipitation estimation.

The two countries previously collaborated to adapt NSSL’s Hydrometeor Classification Algorithm to the Canadian radars which use a shorter wavelength than those in the U.S.

In the coming months, NSSL will work closely with Environment Canada to develop a robust algorithm to estimate snowfall in winter storms.  The Canadian radar is located in a climate regime that regularly receives significant snowfall.  An instrumented site nearby will allow comparisons of radar snowfall estimates and actual snowfall amounts.

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New enhanced radar scanning strategy to be tested

Efficient sampling of storms is a critical need for forecasters in severe weather warning situations. Phased array radar technology, with its electronically steered beam, has the potential to meet this need by giving users the ability to control how, when, and where the radar scans.  This means the radar can be directed to focus its beam only where storms are detected, without the mechanical inertia associated with rotating a parabolic antenna. Focused observations of storms lead to faster updates since the radar does not waste time scanning clear-air regions.

NSSL/CIMMS researchers developed the Adaptive Digital signal processing Algorithm for PAR Timely Scans (ADAPTS) to take advantage of this ability by “turning on” or “turning off” individual beam positions based on storm continuity, coverage and significance.  ADAPTS also includes criteria to continuously monitor low-altitude developments and follow storm movement and growth.

The original prototype was tested during the spring of 2009 and demonstrated significant performance improvement leading to reduced observation update times.

“The new ADAPTS II prototype has been enhanced to allow the user to define scanning strategies for different weather situations, rather than pre-set general scanning strategies used in the original version,” says NSSL/CIMMS researcher Sebastian Torres, leader of the National Weather Radar Testbed (NWRT) Software and Signal Processing Upgrades project.

Testing of the ADAPTS algorithm using the National Weather Radar Testbed begins on April 12. Researchers believe they will see even faster updates than before, which could help make severe weather warnings more accurate and timely.

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NSSL prepares for first study of operational impacts of faster radar data

Photo the NWRT courtesy of Mark Benner

One question driving research with the Phased Array Radar (PAR) is whether faster data updates will increase warning lead time.  To begin answering this question, NSSL will conduct the first experiment to directly compare how forecasters issue warnings based on data provided at current radar update rates, with warnings issued based on faster data updates provided by Phased Array Radar (PAR) technology.

The project is part of the 2010 Phased Array Radar Innovative Sensing Experiment (PARISE) beginning the second week in April.

Teams of forecasters will use two different PAR data sets.  One will be with the fast update time typical of the PAR, and the other will be PAR data, but updated at the WSR-88D rate.

“This gives us a basis from which we can compare warning lead times – no differences in data, just update time and the warning decision process used by each team,” says Pam Heinselman, research meteorologist at NSSL and a leader of the project.

This will be a meaningful study with the warning lead-time and warning decision process examined from a direct radar comparison.

Since 2007, NSSL has invited NWS forecasters to participate in experiments designed to demonstrate and provide user feedback on PAR weather surveillance capabilities.  The evaluations of PAR data given by previous participants have positively impacted PAR research and development.

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NSSL’s mobile radar team goes to the Olympics

NO-XP staff in Birch Bay
NSSL's Doug Forsyth and Bob Staples (CIMMS) get the NO-XP settled in Washington.

Researchers from NSSL’s Radar Research and Development Division are perfecting their radar relay handoff as they rotate through Birch Bay, Washington to operate the NOAA-Xband dual-POLarized (NO-XP) mobile radar in support of the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

NSSL was invited to use the NO-XP to participate in SNOW-V10, the Science and NOWcasting of Olympic Weather for Vancouver 2010 in support of nowcasting operations for the Cypress Mountain venue, where freestyle skiing, snowboard, and snowboard halfpipe competitions are taking place.  The NO-XP radar operates on a sensitive wavelength to detect smaller particles such as snow.  The dual-polarization capability provides valuable details on the size and shape of these particles.

The NO-XP radar is currently located in Birch Bay, Washington, with an unobstructed view to the northwest towards Cypress Mountain near Vancouver.  The team sends the radar data to forecasters via wireless internet in real time to identify the melting level and how it changes with time.  They also call attention to precipitation moving in from the west that may not be seen by the Canadian radar because of the mountains.

Researchers have their own team goal to accomplish – the want to understand the generation and evolution of snow and rain in mountainous terrain.

“Location and evolution of the melting zone is crucial and it can be mapped very well with a polarimetric radar.  Verification of the signatures can be made in this particular location because the Olympic forecasting team has instruments on much of the mountain, and at many heights and locations.  It will be a great comparison to improve verification and help understanding,” said Dusan Zrnic, part of the NSSL team.

The radar will remain in Birch Bay through the Paralympic Games set for March 12-21 2010.

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NSSL taps community to make precipitation reports

robin on holly bush
A robin rests on a frozen holly bush in Norman, Oklahoma. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Berryhill, Norman resident.

With much of the U.S. well in the grip of winter, NSSL continues its third year of leaning on the local community to help provide observations for research.

The Winter Precipitation Identification Near the Ground (W-PING) project invites public observations of winter precipitation from volunteers within a 90-mile radius of Norman, Okla.

Winter precipitation is particularly difficult to forecast because it may melt or re-freeze very near the ground.  Because radars cannot see close to the ground, NSSL will use public observations of what is actually happening at the surface to compare with what the radar has detected. This information will help researchers improve computer programs and radar techniques to better estimate what is actually falling on the ground.

This is the first time W-PING observations will be compared with data from two radars during 2010 operations.  The testbed NEXRAD radar and a new dual-polarized radar (OU-PRIME) will both be collecting data simultaneously.

This is a perfect opportunity for classrooms, families and closet scientists to be a part of important weather research happening in their backyard.  Volunteers should visit:  http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/projects/winter/ and click on “I Want to Volunteer!”  There is no commitment, and no minimum number of reports.  The form will request the date, time, location, and precipitation type.

Since the first year of W-PING, NSSL has received over 2,800 individual observations from volunteers.  W-PING is coordinated by Kim Elmore, NSSL/CIMMS.

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Mobile radar to assist weather nowcasting for 2010 Olympic Games

NSSL's Bob Staples (left) and Doug Forsyth (right) with an Environment Canada colleague in front of the NO-XP at Birch Lake, Washington.
NSSL's Bob Staples (left) and Doug Forsyth (right) with an Environment Canada colleague in front of the NO-XP at Birch Lake, Washington.

NSSL has sent a team of researchers and the dual-polarized X-Band mobile Doppler radar to the 2010 Olympic (February 12-28, 2010) and Paralympic (March 12-21, 2010) Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia.  They will participate in Science and NOWcasting of Olympic Weather for Vancouver 2010 (SNOW-V10), a unique opportunity for international collaboration on the science of winter nowcasting in complex terrain.

NSSL’s NOAA-OU X-band dual-Pol Doppler radar (NO-XP) crew departed December 26 for their destination of Blaine, Washington, near the Canadian border.  The data collected by the radar will support 0-6 hour forecasts, or nowcasts, of precipitation type and amount in support of the Cypress Mountain venue where freestyle skiing, snowboard, and snowboard halfpipe competitions will take place.

You can view the NO-XP radar data here:  http://wdssii.nssl.noaa.gov/web/wdss2/products/radar/SNOW-V10.shtml

Researchers also plan to study the collected dual-polarized radar data to better understand the winter precipitation environment, including the complicated rain/snow mix scenario.  The NO-XP radar will operate from December 30-March 22, 2010, with teams rotating out every two weeks.

The X-band radar operates on a shorter, more sensitive wavelength to detect smaller particles, and the dual polarization capability provides additional details on the microphysics of storms.  This radar can be used to detect tiny water droplets as clouds form, and can see light precipitation such as snow.  NO-XP is used for very short-range weather observation, and was first deployed to Texas to scan Hurricane Ike as it made landfall in September 2008.

SNOW-V10 is a World Weather Research Project of the World Meteorological Organization.  Other organizations involved include:  Environment Canada, University of Basel, Switzerland, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, National Center for Atmospheric Research, University of Bonn, Germany.

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NSSL to host second national symposium on MPAR

“Moving Forward with Risk Reduction for Cost Effective Service Improvements” is the theme for the second symposium to be hosted by NSSL on the latest developments in Multifunction Phased Array Radar (MPAR). The symposium will be held November 17-19, 2009 at the National Weather Center (NWC) in Norman, Okla., and is sponsored by the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorology.

Formal presentations, senior-level panel discussions and exhibits of the latest phased array radar technology are scheduled. Panels of invited speakers from government, academia, and the commercial sector will be offered with ample opportunities for discussion.

The symposium aims to advance the state of MPAR research and development with a review of MPAR risk-reduction implementation strategies and a discussion of MPAR multi-functionality with respect to air surveillance, air traffic management, weather, and chemical or biological release monitoring. The symposium will review the progress of MPAR-related research and development, and explore the challenges and next steps to deliver a cost-effective phased array radar capability. The social and economic benefits offered through the use of phased array radar technology will also be discussed.

Background: Our Nation’s legacy radar systems are aging and will need replacement. MPAR offers the most significant new technological capability to address both current and anticipated radar needs and gaps, as well as a single technological pathway. Its versatility and adaptive scanning capability addresses a wide array of national surveillance needs, both for weather and aircraft.

Website: http://www.ofcm.gov/mpar-symposium/index.htm This link takes you offsite and opens in a new window.

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Public hail observation program ready for spring

NSSL’s HaSDEx program is live and ready for spring severe weather.  Volunteers within 90 miles of Norman, Oklahoma are invited to document date, time, location and the size of hail through a link online at:  http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/projects/hasdex/

NSSL researchers will merge the reported observations with data from the dual-polarized KOUN radar to investigate the relationship of polarimetric variables to hail size.  The information will be used to refine hail detection algorithms designed to diagnose storm characteristics and intensity and improve warnings for hail producing storms.

HaSDEx volunteers are anonymous and make no long-term commitments.  In the past two years NSSL has logged thousands of reports.

Background: Dual-polarized radars transmit radio wave pulses with both horizontal and vertical orientations to more accurately measure cloud particles and precipitation size, shape and density. This additional information results in improved estimates of rain and snow rates, better detection of large hail location in summer storms, and improved identification of rain/snow transition regions in winter storms. The WSR-88D radars in the NEXRAD network will be upgraded with polarimetric technology beginning in 2010, extending their functionality and effectiveness.

Significance: Enhances public awareness of atmospheric science and severe weather hazards and severe weather safety.

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